The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 draw is set. Manchester City finally draw a quality opponent in a competition as they face Real Madrid. And holders Liverpool are done no favors by pulling Atletico Madrid.
Just like we did for the group stage, we’ll have our panel offer predictions. Back again are Tyler Everett, Grace Robertson, and Carl Cort.
How’d we do last time?
Chops hit 14 of 16. He got Atalanta correct but whiffed on Red Bull Salzburg and Ajax advancing.
Tyler hit 13 of 16. He also hit Atalanta but missed on Ajax (obv), Zenit, and Inter.
Grace made us all look bad, getting 15 of 16 correct, only missing Ajax.
Carl got 13 of 16 as well, missing on Ajax, Inter, and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Here are our Round of 16 picks.
Manchester City vs Real Madrid
Chops: Let’s start with the premier match-up in the Round of 16. It’s two of the most unlikable clubs in the world: Real Madrid (although slightly more likable without Ronaldo) and Man City.
Real Madrid are not quite the match-by-match rollercoaster that they have been recently. Man City are not quite the machine that they have been the past two seasons.
So much of this tie depends on the fitness of Aymeric Laporte (who is nearing a return to training) and ironing out of City’s backline issues.
City have almost no home field advantage on European nights at the Etihad. If Madrid have all of their offensive pieces healthy (looking at you, Eden Hazard), they’ll give City all they can handle.
Real Madrid win this one. Enjoy your Carabao Cup, City.
Tyler: I would argue that this match-up is the hardest to predict. With all their eggs in the UCL basket — no, I don’t think they have a shot in the EPL — I can’t see Pep Guardiola’s team bowing out this early, regardless of the competition. But they got a really tough draw and an upset by Los Blancos — if their success could ever be considered an “upset” — would not shock me.
One note on Real Madrid: take a wild guess on who is tied with Atlético for the best defense in La Liga in terms of goals allowed. You got it, Los Blancos. With 12 goals allowed at the halfway point, the math is simple: this team is on pace to allow 24 goals in 38 games, a year after giving up 46! So take the “under”?? Never mind, soccer’s not the biggest point spread sport.
Grace: City for me. I’m never clear that Real Madrid under Zidane’s second era have a strong idea of what they want to do, and it seems like they’ll continue to muddle through the season. It may be enough in La Liga, but this is a different challenge altogether. City, meanwhile, have been off the pace this year, but with the need now to shift their focus to this competition, I can’t see them not being close to their best against Madrid. Pep Guardiola will have a plan they will execute on it. Zidane will not have a plan.
Carl: This match up on paper looks like a must watch (which it is) but in reality I see two teams struggling for consistency right now. It’s a game which one wouldn’t want to miss but at the same time I think there’s more attractive games in this round to watch. Normally I’d sway towards Real Madrid getting the job done but my instincts are telling me this one belongs to City.
PSG vs Dortmund
Chops: Even with ERLING BRAUT HAALAND I don’t see Dortmund having enough firepower to out-firepower PSG. Icardi-Neymar-Mbappe-di Maria are frightening. PSG advance to the quarterfinals. It feels weird typing that.
Tyler: PSG has me convinced they’re making at least the quarters, or maybe even the semis for a change. Dortmund was lucky to make it out of their group and will keep it interesting, especially at home, but PSG is a pretty easy pick here. Does Dortmund’s signing of our man Erling Haaland change the dynamic here? Absolutely. Just not quiite (misspelling intentional) enough for me to change my mind.
Grace: I like this PSG team right now. Obviously they can glide through Ligue 1 without much trouble on their attacking talent alone, but this summer there was a real effort to build a squad that could win these sorts of fixtures. Idrissa Gueye has been a revelation since arriving from Everton and should make a world of difference here. Dortmund on the other hand seem a little flimsy right now. Haaland is great, but he’s not going to give the side any of the solidity they lack.
Carl: I have a lot of admiration of how organised and dynamic these German teams are. On top of that, Dortmund play good football and are definitely a threat. I’m always a little concerned when it comes to PSG in the later stages of the UCL due to the lack of competition domestically. But with that being said their firepower on top of having that winning mentally (regardless of where it’s coming from) can go a long way.
Valencia vs Atalanta
Chops: Atalanta scores goals. They have the most in Serie A both in count and xG. It’s no fluke with these guys.
Valencia concede goals. They’ve let in the fourth-most by xGA in La Liga.
Sometimes the math does all of the work for you. Atalanta prevails.
Tyler: Should we more concerned by how Atalanta started group play or impressed by how they finished it? Honestly not sure where I stand on that (probably the latter) but Valencia will find a way — if they can beat Chelsea and Ajax, surely they can handle Atalanta, right?
Atalanta, though, is red-hot right now. This will publish before they travel to first-place Inter Milan on Saturday, but they’ve won four of five in Serie A and if they knock off Inter, I’d like the right to change my pick here.
Grace: Atalanta play a fluid, exciting system that produces fluid, exciting football. Valencia play a rigid 4-4-2 that produces boring, rigid football. Please, God, let Atalanta win this. I’m going to be an optimist and say they’ll do it.
Carl: I’m a huge fan and will always be drawn towards teams that play expressive and expansive football. (As to say why I’m not a big Jose Mourinho fan). This is actually one of my favourite games of the group. Two ball playing teams with the ability to score and concede goals!! It’s an exciting match up but for me Atalanta will be too much.
RB Leipzig vs Tottenham
Chops: This is one match-up where probability models and oddsmakers aren’t aligning.
RB Leipzig is the better team. Timo Werner is a scoring machine. It took Spurs all of a month under Jose Mourinho to become maddeningly inconsistent again.
Oddsmakers seem to favor Spurs (at least futures markets). 538 and ClubElo favor Leipzig. So do I. The Germans advance.
Tyler: When I first weighed in on this one, I liked Tottenham. Then Jose Mourinho ripped one of his own players — and a promising one at that, Tanguy Ndombele — Spurs drew Norwich and lost to Southampton. The latest good news? Another Harry Kane injury. Who knows what turns the Mourinho roller coaster will take between now and this match-up, but I feel like Leipizig wins comfortably.
Grace: I don’t think Mourinho quite has Spurs locked down yet. I’m far from convinced he’s ready to send a team out to just spoil a game as he often does, so Tottenham will have to go toe to toe with Leipzig. And they’re just not as good. Leipzig to dominate this one and go through for me.
Carl: Leipzig see this one through for me. As much as I don’t like Jose’s teams, I admire how he gets them organised defensively. The issue here is his recent appointment at Spurs hasn’t given him enough time to cement his philosophy. Leipzig advance and quite comfortably too.
Bayern Munich vs Chelsea
Chops: Speaking of scoring machines, I’d like to introduce you to Robert Lewandowski. My lord. The Pole is having one of the best seasons of his career.
Bayern are off the pace in the Bundesliga, but they looked like the best team in all of the Champions League group stage brackets.
If Philippe Coutinho remains in the same form as he was before the Bundesliga break, Bayern will be a test for even Liverpool.
Chelsea are just too young and inconsistent. Bayern advance.
Tyler: Not going to disrespect every team in Germany: I like Bayern Munich here. These games will both be must-watch and wide-open, but Chelsea’s back line is not going to hold up against Lewandowski & Co.
Grace: Going to be slightly surprising and say I favour Chelsea here. I think they can shake off their recent problems by February, and get back to putting some really big performances in. Bayern always feel more like a collection of talented individuals than a side, and I’m not sure their players are that much better than Chelsea’s. Lampard lacks a signature win so far at Stamford Bridge. This could be it.
Carl: I think Frank has done a great job with how he has Chelsea playing. He’s bought in young players who have adapted well to his philosophy. Having said that, with a young team comes a lack of experience, naivety and inconsistency as shown in the EPL. I believe Chelsea will make this a great game to watch but Munich will have too much experience. Munich advance.
Barcelona vs Napoli
Chops: Erm, it’s Messi against Messy. No need to analyze here. Barcelona advance.
Tyler: Who knows what Napoli will look like the next few months after sacking Carlo Ancelotti? Regardless, Barcelona is on point at the moment and should have too much for the Italians. And to give a bit of an update, Napoli has secured just four points from a possible 15 over their last five — woof.
Grace: God, these two clubs are wasting a lot of talented players on incoherent ideas and systems. Barcelona to win because they have Messi, which is the only reason they ever win these days.
Carl: Impossible to see an upset here even without the issues Napoli are currently having. Barcelona win.
Juventus vs Lyon
Chops: First, can we just tip our cap in appreciation of Juventus’ best player this season…a guy nobody expected to still produce like he has this year…Mr. Paulo Dybala.
Yeah yeah yeah, Ronaldo can still elevate 28 inches off the ground and slam home majestic headers. But Dybala has been a joy to watch.
Wojciech Szczesny is playing so well he deserves a couple vowels in his name. And after a shaky start, Matthijs de Ligt is finding his legs.
Juve cruise here.
Tyler: Juve is going to have no trouble with a Lyon team that A) plays in Ligue 1 and B) managed only eight points in arguably the weakest group. It doesn’t help them that they’re facing a team that is a staple in the UCL quarters and beyond. My question: Will Juve include star Swedish teen Dejan Kulusevski in the squad and/or will they win by so much that we get a look at him? Yes and yes.
Grace: Lyon have been extremely disappointing domestically this season. They have so much talent but it just isn’t clicking at all. Juventus have so much talent and it is clicking. Easy win for the side from Turin.
Carl: Sitting in 12th place in Ligue 1 for me sums this tie up. So many things will have to go wrong for Juve to not see this through. Comfortable win for Juve.
Liverpool vs Atletico Madrid
Chops: Liverpool haven’t lost domestically in over a year. In fact, not counting the Carabao Cup (which really only Man City care about), they’ve now only lost twice in the past 365 days.
By February, they’ll have Takumi Minamino fully integrated into the squad and (hopefully) all of their injured players fit.
Atleti won’t make it easy, but Liverpool will do what they’ve been doing, and that’s win win win no matter what what what.
Tyler: Reeling from that conclusion. Did that really just happen?? Thought I’d heard every way to describe Liverpool’s form right now, but that’s a new one. And the next HPS pod better start with Chops rapping (singing?) that line!
But I digress — Atleti will make Liverpool scrap to go through, but over two legs, I don’t see how a team with so little firepower can beat beat Liverpool. If Edinson Cavani is in the fold, Atleti is much more dangerous. Liverpool, however, is simply too good. And FWIW, I think Cavani’s reported move is slightly more likely to happen in June than in January.
Grace: Two or three years ago, Atletico Madrid would have been the ideal side to cause Liverpool problems, getting players behind the ball and springing counters. That’s all changed now. Expect a pattern of play in which Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson dominate the ball, launching cross after cross to wear Atleti down. It’s not to say that Simeone’s team can’t get through here, but it looks a poor stylistic fit for them and Liverpool will make it very difficult. Liverpool to go through.
Carl: I’ve been trying to establish whetherLiverpool are as good of a team as we’re currently seeing. They haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel with their style of play so is it just that you have teams like Chelsea, Man U, and Arsenal in a transitional period? Even the likes of Barcelona and Real aren’t what they once were. I guess we’ll soon find out and that won’t be starting with Athletico, a team who have slightly lost their identity of being a tough and robust team capable of matching anyone.
Liverpool without a doubt continue their winning streak.
Where to bet the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League in the US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.